A selection of favourites by Ding Dong Dim Sum, including gyoza and steamed buns - Credit: Ding Dong Dim Sum
During the pandemic, when dining out has been off the menu, DIY meal kits have been bringing the restaurant experience to our homes.
From Dishoom’s breakfast bacon naan roll kit to Pasta Evangelists’ artisan recipe boxes and Norwich restaurant Farmyard, which has launched a frozen range of its favourite dishes, they offer an alternative to a traditional takeaway.
And last year Tom Greenwood-Mears and his wife, Maya, launched Ding Dong Dim Sum.
Maya and Tom Greenwood-Mears, founders of Ding Dong Dim Sum - Credit: Ding Dong Dim Sum
Tom grew up in Norfolk, at Haddiscoe near Loddon. When the pandemic hit, he was running the live events division of the TV company Endemol Shine and Maya was working in hospitality – for well-known brands including Las Iguanas and Bookatable.
The couple had always been big fans of dim sum – a meal made up of a selection of small fried or steamed Chinese dishes. The tradition dates back to the 10th century, when it was served in Cantonese tea houses.
Creating an at-home dim sum box was an idea that they had toyed with for some time, but both had busy careers. However, when they were made redundant, the pair decided to take the concept further.
Tom explains: “Three or four years ago we started using the other meal kit providers and we thought that was a really good format for dim sum .
“We would go out to dim sum restaurants a lot and really enjoyed those, but we always felt that takeaway dim sum never really travelled particularly well.
“You can get supermarket dim sum, but we felt that the quality varied quite a bit. So we thought that a dim sum meal kit, where you can get it sent to you and cook it at home, was a nice way to make it a bit more accessible to people.”
A selection of dumplings by Ding Dong Dim Sum - they arrive frozen and you steam them at home - Credit: Ding Dong Dim Sum
Then, in March 2020, came the first lockdown. That April, Maya was made redundant and there was a big question mark over Tom’s job.
At home, with time on their hands, they revisited their idea.
“We set about trying to figure out how we would do it, started putting the menu together and worked out what people would want – bao buns, gyozas and siu mai dumplings, dips, salads, sticky rice and all the rest of it,” says Tom. “Ultimately, everything on the menu needed to be delicious.”
While they knew what ingredients they needed and how to get it to people, dim sum also requires a particular bit of kit to cook it – a steamer.
“We have got a bamboo steamer and an electric steamer at home, but we were very aware that most people didn’t, and so we tried to figure out how we could create a steamer that we were able to send out with every order,” says Tom.
“That took about a month of testing a variety of different designs and different concepts. We knew it had to be eco conscious, so it needed to be biodegradable, but it also needed to work so that it was as easy as possible for people.”
At that point Tom was also made redundant from his job.
“That was the point where we were like, okay, we’ve both go a bit of money from our redundancy payments, we’ve definitely got time on our hands now, it feels like a really perfect time to launch something like this, why don’t we give it a go? And so we did a lot more prep, testing with friends and family and a lot more product development.”
Gyoza by Ding Dong Dim Sum - Credit: Ding Dong Dim Sum
They pitched their concept to three companies which make dim sum for restaurants around the country, who loved the idea and came on board as their suppliers, and they make all of the dips in-house.
Aside from the food, lots of thought has also been put into the packaging to ensure that as much as possible is either recyclable or biodegradable.
You can even return the wool which insulates the delivery boxes, and they’re currently working on eliminating the few plastic elements, such as the dip pots and the dry ice bags which keep the dim sum frozen while they’re in transit.
Ding Dong Dim Sum launched in March 2021. Boxes are delivered nationwide on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and they’re going to be available through Deliveroo soon.
They currently offer boxes for two or four people and you can choose between a set menu selection of just meat, surf and turf, Ding Dong favourites, a bit of everything, the Veggie Patch plant-based box and they’ve just launched The Peski, an assortment of veggie and fish dim sum.
“People can have a bit of everything - and they could share boxes as well,” says Tom.
“We positioned it as an occasion meal kit rather than an everyday meal kit, so you’ll have it for dinner parties, you’ll have it for date night, you’ll have it for weekends in, and you might get it every other week or once a month. We think that this way of eating will become a regular feature of people’s dinner habits in the future.”
Gyoza by Ding Dong Dim Sum - Credit: Ding Dong Dim Sum
Tom describes himself as a “Norfolk boy at heart” - he went to school at Town Close, Greshams and Wymondham College and while he and his family are currently living in London, they come back to visit the county as often as possible. Favourite places to visit include Norwich (for dim sum at Baby Buddha in Ber Street), Holkham, Cromer and Gorleston and they have plans to relocate permanently in a few years’ time.
Reflecting on launching Ding Dong Dim Sum, Tom laughs that “it’s been a crazy time” - especially as he and Maya have also become parents for the first time.
“I’m not sure I would recommend to anybody launching a new business and having a new baby at the same time. It’s been pretty exhausting, but thankfully we’ve got some really good family and friends around [who help out]. And he’s an absolute delight.”
See dingdongdimsum.com for information.
What’s in the box?
We tried the Veggie Patch box for two, which was packed with a feast of vegetable and mushroom buns, vegetable dumplings, spicy dumplings and two types of gyoza – veg and potato and mushroom. It also came with a selection of three dips (sesame tang, classic dipping sauce and ginger and chilli kicker), sticky rice and edamame beans.
In addition, you get a carrot, spring onion and a chilli to turn into slaw. The instructions implore you not to skip this step – and they’re totally right. Grate up the carrot, chop up the spring onion and chilli and mix it up with the slaw tang sauce for a side which is completely addictive. I could have happily devoured the whole bowl singlehandedly.
There are lots of elements to the meal, but the instructions are really easy to follow.
Prepare the slaw first, then get a pan of water on the go and the oven on a low heat to warm up some serving dishes and your plates.
As well as being steamed, some of the gyoza also need frying, plus you have to microwave or fry the rice and defrost the edamame beans. You need to keep an eye on your timings, but in around 20 minutes you’ve got a feast on your table.
Mixing and matching the dim sum makes it a lovely, sociable meal – ideal for an at-home date night, special occasion or having friends round.
My favourites from the menu – apart from the carrot slaw (sorry to keep going on about it, but it was so good) - were the earthy mushroom gyoza, the spicy veg dumplings which had a decent amount of kick and the pillowy vegetable and mushroom bun.